A New Twist on Holiday Decorating for Your Aging Parents
I just got back from decorating my mom’s room at the board and care cottage for Hanukkah. While she was being fed lunch in the kitchen, I played a CD of Hanukkah music as I cheerily put up the decorations. For about two-thirds of each day now, Mom, age 99, is in bed in her room, so I decided it was more important to put the decorations up in there rather than in the living room and kitchen which I have done in previous years.
If you are planning to do some holiday decorating for your aging parents (and I hope you are), here are things I realized as I went along. The results look somewhat different than how we normally decorate at our house.
Decorating Changes I Made
Since Mom spends most of her time in bed, I put the majority of the decorations on the walls closest to her and lower down on the walls, so when she is lying on either of her sides they will be at eye level. I also put a few on the far side of the room, but I’m not really sure how well her eyes focus for distance, so the majority of the decorations are on the walls and closet doors closest to her or in her line of sight. I thought of the perspective as the “Bed Cam!”
I used the large-size decorations with bold colors on them because I think she will be able to see those more clearly than some of the smaller, daintier, pastel ones.
I bought a new stuffed animal to add to her stuffed animal collection — a cute Hanukkah bear that she can hold or cuddle any time.
Instead of real candles in the menorah (see photo above), I brought over an electric menorah that plugs into the wall and lights up. I don’t want to create any fire hazards in the board and care cottage!
I didn’t overdo the decorations; keeping it simple because Alzheimer’s disease patients could be agitated by too much stimulation (or changes in their rooms). Although at this late stage I’m not sure how aware my mom is of her surroundings, except for what is directly in front of her face.
I set the volume on the CD player a little louder than usual to insure she could hear the Hanukkah music from bed. (Years ago we had to take away her hearing aids because she would pop them out of her ears and start chewing on them, not knowing what they were.)
What Happened Next — Ta-Dah!
When she was finished eating, the caregiver brought my mom to her room to see what I had done. Unfortunately, she was already tired out and her eyes were closed as they wheeled her wheelchair into the room. Even though her eyes were shut, I told her I was there and had a surprise to show her . . . but she didn’t open her eyes. I stayed another 45 minutes, hoping she would wake up, but she didn’t.
Was I disappointed that I couldn’t share my splendid decorating job with her? I sure was!
Did I shed a few tears that we couldn’t share the fun of this together? I sure did!
Did I know I needed to change my expectations for the holidays as my mom aged? I sure did! And I thought I had this part down pat, but obviously I don’t.
So I’ll go back there tomorrow morning when she’s more likely to be awake and alert, and give her a “tour” of her decorated room then. One “plus” side of Alzheimer’s disease is that the decorations will be “new” to my mom every day during the holiday season! 😉
Have you had to change your holiday traditions due to your parents aging? In what ways? How did you cope with it?
Photo Credit: mamamusings’ photostream on Flickr